The mad thing about this music malarkey is that the freshness usually always prevails: new sounds are the very lifeblood of the modern music galaxy, and even though at times it feels like we’re all – punters, industry dweebs, panda lovers – drowning in a daily bloody overload of supposedly amazing new bands and sensationally launched singers in amazing technicolour afrobeats. It feels like the fresh sound of tomorrow is always beep beep beeping on everyone’s radar today.
So what utterly baffling timeline-shattering bountiness to have those cheeky freshfaced roustabouts The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, aka ‘Beatles And The Stones’ as those even more freshfacedly cheeksome House Of Love cats once mused in the 1990s, topping the album and singles pop parades – a mere 60 years after their early chart battlings in a time before the sultry worldwide internet or salt & vinegar crisps or salty old seadog Ed Sheeran had been invented.
In a moderately similar vein, this month’s Pandaman column ambles down some especially dusty alleyways as we hunt down old haunted songs by musical troubadours who, by the ancient standards of Jagger and McCartney are young pups, but who’ve earned their doggy stripes over the years. ASH we touched on recently when they thoroughly grilled a St Albans The Horn crowd for a tour warm-up. The Northern Irish noiseniks have been racketing along since 1993 and their latest tour takes them to a terrific headline at The Forum in Kentish Town where Tim Wheeler’s newfound Miami Vice chic is augmented by Dutch songstress DEMIRA on a lushly delivered ‘Oslo’.
Ash have teamed up with THE SUBWAYS (formed in 2002) for this touring battle of the indiepoppunk trios – bonus respect here to the mighty Alcopop! label who released a split 7″ with the bands covering eachother’s ‘Oh Yeah’ tracks, and even more respect for singer Billy Lunn augmenting a hectically loud set with a dive from a handy nearby balcony. There’s even some stealthy elderly statesmen-at-work first on tonight, with RAZORLIGHT (also formed in 2002) singer Johnny Borrell throwing some jagged old wave of new wave shapes in his own three-sided side project JEALOUS NOSTRIL.
If Johnny B is keeping it lowkey, GET CAPE. WEAR CAPE. FLY. is gliding into a different dimension. Sam Duckworth (for ’tis he) was a wee emo boy back in the day, that day kicking off in 2004. Along the way came releases on Atlantic and Alcopop! and he made his own headlines at The Forum and Brixton Academy. Along another way, he’s split up with himself and re-reformed under the Get Cape banner and now finds himself and his acoustic guitar ruminating casually at the Band On The Wall venue for Manchester Folk Festival. That’s not to say there isn’t still vigour to this Get Cape caper: always one to lurk in the leftfield, and indeed, left-wing shadows, Sam is still talking passionately about his own anxieties and wider injustices amidst a scattering of acoustic nuggets and – yes – classic emo-esque musings.
By some beautiful coincidental resonance Get Cape Sam was born in 1986, and over at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town, it’s the shabby C86 generation which is being venerated. We remember being in this very same venue in those mid-80s when a scrappily naive My Bloody Valentine were heartily – and fairly artily – booed by an angsty Shop Assistants crowd. With THE SOUP DRAGONS (formed: ’85) and THE VASELINES (formed: ’86) revisiting past live glories for the first time in several aeons you could be forgiven for expecting some suitably shambolic antics.
And yet The Vaselines in particular are impressively coherent and dynamic. Famously feted by Nirvana another several million aeons ago, the much-loved ‘Molly’s Lips’ is tossed out fairly early but ‘Son of a Gun’ represents a meatily beaty finale. The Soup Dragons meanwhile always relied on a helter skeltering indiepop jamboree in their early days, all beatpop haircuts and art school enthusiasm, and it’s a charm which carries them through a bouyant set. A victorious vamp through their ‘I’m Free’ smash seals the deal, although even after all these decades the swerve from C86 cheekiness to baggy fame still feels weird. Some things never change.
Speaking of beatpop haircuts, where are we now with the Pandaman’s running gig total? Well, as befits the general wrinkled theme of this month the live road has been bumpier than a camel with measles. Getting the covid and flu jabs at the same time (in different arms) resulted in an entire week off the concert circuit and comes thoroughly unrecommended to gig-goers everywhere. End result: a measly monthly total of 16 acts, making it a stack of 318 live performances so far in 2023.
The finishing line is in sight, but can we squeeeeeze in enough live fun to hit the 365 target before Christmas? Who could say, and why would they say it? Still, a month of excellently old school nights out with booze, but absolutely no boos. Exactly the way the Pandaman likes it.